Giveaway: Blaze Pizza!

29 09 2014

Earlier this year, Blaze Pizza caught fire in the Bay Area, just one of many places where the flames are spreading around the nation. The concept is simple: home-made, thin crust dough; artisanal choose-your-own toppings; 180 seconds in their open-flame oven for “fast fire’d” perfection. Sounds good to me.

blaze pizza2

From the Blaze Pizza facebook page

If it sounds good to you too, and you’re ever around the Fremont area, they’ve kindly given me some gift cards for one free pizza each. Leave a comment below or email me at brocandchoc@gmail.com and you can try your own pizza for free. Yeay!

blaze coupon

blaze pizza3

Stay tuned as they make their way ever closer to our fair city… rumor is that new locations are opening all the time and SF is on the short list.

Additional note: their short dessert menu includes a “S’more Pie”. Me want one!

blaze smores





Il Casaro – New Restaurant

23 03 2014

When I first saw Il Casaro as I was walking by a week ago, the menu was posted as a “soft opening menu”. It looked intriguing, so (with difficulty remembering where exactly it was) I returned yesterday. They are now fully open, and I think they’re off to a good start.

Marinara Pizza - $12

Marinara Pizza – $12

The owners of Il Casaro are not new to the area; they’ve owned nearby Vicoletto for some time. Which, oddly, I’ve never been to. Perusing their menu, I would now really like to try their pappardelle with fresh crab meat, among other things. More new restaurants, yeay!

What I liked about Il Casaro, aside from the food being good, was the relatively casual atmosphere and price point, along with the simple yet totally satisfying menu choices. They (currently) offer a couple salads, a few appetizers and sides, two panuzzi (a type of Italian sandwich made with pizza dough), a variety of mozzarella cheeses and meat plates, and pizzas. They have a massive wood-burning oven (with chopped wood stacked along one wall to verify authenticity), and bar seating that surrounds the cooking area (with said oven). There are also a dozen or more tables around the perimeter of the high-ceilinged, open space.

Asparagi - $9

Asparagi – $9

Insalata - $9.50

Insalata – $9.50

While there is no shortage of Italian restaurants in North Beach, I find that many of them are upscale with a price point of around $20-30 per plate. It’s really nice to find a place that offers a nice atmosphere, good menu, yummy food, and can easily keep a meal for two under $50.

I made the considerable mistake of ordering the only pizza that doesn’t have cheese on it… a fact that was plainly displayed on their menu but I neglected to notice due to my apparently mistaken belief that all pizzas should have cheese on them. It was still a good pizza, but I definitely longed for all the pizzas that I saw being made behind the counter with beautiful mozzarella cheese on them.

Imported Burrata - $9.75

Imported Burrata – $9.75

Which brings up another point: the “Mozzarella Bar” part of the menu. All I can say to this is YES. They offer four types of mozzarella (buffala, fior di latte, imported burrata, and smoked mozzarella) that come with toasted bread and a small arugula salad ($7-$10 per order). I can’t wait to go back just to try more of these (and get a pizza with cheese on it…). We tried the imported burrata (obvious first choice) and it was amazing, as expected.

Everything else was simple but delicious, and, aside from the pizza coming out first (I would have preferred the salad), was smoothly executed. I look forward to returning.

Il Casaro on Urbanspoon





Capo’s

26 02 2013

Extra, Extra, ReadAllAboutIt! Capo’s Now Open in North Beach!

Say that in, like, one of those Dick Tracy Chicago gangster accents to get the full gist of what’s happening in that sentence, y’shee. Capo’s is the newest gig from world champion pizza tosser Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza Napolitana, one of the famous SF pizza joints (also the owner of Pyzano’s in Castro Valley). This time he’s gone old school with Capo’s — red patent leather booths, brick walls, and mood lighting chandeliers. And a specialization in Chicago-style deep dish pizza. I can dig it.

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I really liked this place. It’s busy. There’s a very nice, posh bar. The booths are plush as shit. The menu is awesome and a bit quirky for a pizza place. The wait staff is courteous and attentive. The food is fattening and delicious.

What was surprising to me was the portion sizes. They’re immense. Not chic SF style at all. But not unwelcome either, except to my unsuspecting belly. We ordered two appetizers and one 13″ deep dish to share between four people. We asked the waiter if that was enough food and he replied emphatically, “oh yeah”. Which alarmed us a bit. Then they brought unsolicited soup, Banchero’s style. It was welcome and yummy. Then our appetizers came.

Baked artichokes in spinach and provolone cream

Baked artichokes in spinach and provolone cream

The first appetizer to arrive was the baked artichokes. I didn’t really read on the menu where it said “in spinach and provolone cream”, which is mostly what it was. It was basically artichoke dip. I kinda wished they’d just said that on the menu. But it was still delicious. I think it probably took two years off my life, and my arteries were screaming in horror, but I just laughed and ate. Delicious.

Garlic bread with mozzarella... $5.95!!!

Garlic bread with mozzarella… $5.95!!!

Next arrived our garlic bread with mozzarella cheese. Which I thought would be a paltry few slices of lightly-cheesed bread. Cue comically surprised expression. It was more like a whole loaf worth of bread with a pound of cheese on it. It was amazing and ridiculous. And amazingly ridiculous when slathered in the aforementioned artichoke dip. Double heart attack challenge: accepted.

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Last, but not least, was our pizza. We ordered the Frank Nitti, though we didn’t get the reference. It was only 13″ diameter, but it weighed as much as a bowling ball. And it felt relatively similar to that in your stomach. I was not terribly hungry when we arrived (idiot). I ate two helpings of soup and our all-carb appetizers. I could not even get through my one slice of five-pound pizza. It was ridiculous. And good. And ridiculous.

Overall, I loved the place. The pizza wasn’t as good as Little Star, imho, but the menu was a good enough rival and the atmosphere was better. Also, Capo’s is like four blocks from my house and Little Star (either one) is way across town. So. I will take some Capo’s anytime.

Side notes: I want to try the thin crust next time. And, if you’re going, they only take cash. Come prepared or use their ATM machine.

Capo's on Urbanspoon





Tommaso’s

2 06 2012

Two “m”s, one “s”. Tommaso’s. Opened in 1935 (under the name Lupo’s), this Italian eatery has stayed the course for over 75 years donning the same cave-like location and winning awards for their pizza. They’ve got an interesting story and are one of the great restaurant successes of SF.

Margherita pizza from Tommaso’s

When you ask for restaurant recommendation in SF, particularly in North Beach, you’ll often hear the name Tommaso’s. At least I have. And since I walk by the place every day (no joke) on my way to work, it’s a wonder it’s taken so long for me to go. But alas, now I can say I have experience the great Tommaso’s.

I liked it. I like most restaurants, I guess. Honestly, it wasn’t entirely my style, but the food was good and so was the company (Carissa and EJ met me there).

Being 75+ years old, not unlike my grandpa (love you grandpa!), the style is sort of old school. Think along the lines of Banchero’s (or any old Italian diner, if you’re not from Hayward). It’s been kept up pretty well, but there aren’t any windows (bordered on two sides by other buildings, kitchen in the back, no windows in the front), it’s a bit dim, and the service is what you would expect from a “family-owned” place as opposed to, like, an Applebee’s. You know what I mean.

And since the reputation is so ridiculous, the place is packed. We went on a Saturday night and they don’t take reservations. So, we waited in the too-small foyer for 45 minutes or so for our table. At least they’ll give you drinks while you wait.

Vegetarian antipasto plate from Tommaso’s

The menu offers a few appetizers, many salads, seafood, pasta, pizza, and Italian dinners. It’s down-home style — not light “California” Italian — like so many other restaurants in North Beach. We, obligingly, ordered a pizza to share and a veggie appetizer plate.

Margherita pizza in dim light

Both were good. I love veggies and so did my companions. We gobbled them up quickly. The pizza wasn’t thin Italian style, but wasn’t heavy American style either. It was somewhere in between, and it had lots of (read: adequate amounts of) cheese. It was tasty. I don’t know if I’d go running to Zagat about it, but I did like it. Carissa thought the place we went last time (another North Beach restaurant) was better. And Carissa never sugar coats things.

I’d definitely go back to Tommaso’s if the opportunity arose, but I probably wouldn’t, say, steer a group of my friends there if they asked me where to go. Just my two cents; Zagat can keep on with the praises all they want.

Tommaso's on Urbanspoon





Ironside

19 09 2011

Atmosphere: 4/5  ♦  Service: 3/5  ♦  Food Quality: 4/5  ♦  Value: 3/5
Times Visited: One  ♦ Will I Return?: Sure

Ironside is a hip little restaurant on Second Street between Townsend and Brannan in San Francisco. It’s one of the (great many) places that makes SF what it is in terms of food and ambiance. The decor is a sort of modern wild-west: heavy timber framing (the stairway landing is a 4′ cube of solid wood pieces!) and steel connectors and accents fit in with the polished concrete floors and steel-railed mezzanine. Like other top SF restaurants, it looks great.

The order-at-the counter style adds a bit of casual-ness to your lunch (though they are also open for dinner, and brunch on the weekends), and the paper menu has lots of tasty things to choose from. The list itself is nothing particularly fancy: soups, salads, pizzas, and sandwiches; but the execution is key.

Inside Ironside

Entrance at Ironside

As I’ve only been here once, I can’t verify that everything on the menu is awesome, but lots of things sure did look really good. And my Pressed Veggie Cubano was pretty awesome: roasted seasonal vegetables (mine had spinach, squash, and peppers), melted gruyere cheese, and pickles really hit the spot. A side of big fat steak fries is $2.50 extra, and I had to try an agave soda.

Pressed Veggie Cubano with fries and agave soda.

Yes, agave soda. Instead of using sugar or corn syrup, Ironside serves soda that is sweetened with agave. Since I’ve never tried this, I splurged and spent the extra $2.50 for a soda.

And it tasted like Coke. To me. I’m just saying.

Other lunch menu items include interesting sandwiches such as The Pauline (garbanzo cream cheese spread, cucumbers, carrots, avocados, sprouts, and sunflower seeds on whole wheat ($8), add turkey $3); Pulled Chicken; Grilled Snapper (with jalapeno aioli, pickled onions, butter lettuce, cilantro, and Thai basil – $10); Vine Ripened Tomato and Mozzerella; Meatball Parmesan; and Cheese Steak. There’s also salads (Cobb, Nicoise, Mediterranean, etc.) and pizzas (Spicy Sausage, Roasted Mushroom, Fig and Prosciutto, etc.).

I can’t remember what Jesse ordered, but it looked like this.

I like this place a lot. My only complaint is that it was a bit pricey with my add-ons (fries were $2.50, soda was $2.50, and sandwich was $9), but overall a really cute place with a lively atmosphere, cool decor, and good food. Next time, I’ll have to try a pizza!

Ironside  on Urbanspoon





B&C Hits Chicago, Discovers Pizza

12 06 2011

Extra, extra, read all about it…

Deep. Dish. Pizza. As a California native, I’ve heard these words before. But until last week, I had never truly tasted them. Cue montage sequence of me packing my bags, flying to Minnesota, enjoying a wedding, then flying to Chicago. When the little airplane follows the arched red line to the dot on the map marked “Chicago”, fade to me enjoying this pizza:

chicago pizza

Chicago deep dish pizza from Giordano's

Literally the first thing we did in Chicago was seek out Giordano’s Pizza in downtown Chicago, at the recommendation of a friend who used to live there. May we forever be in debt to him for leading us to this heavenly pizza. Like ambrosia on our lips, it enlivened us from the fatigue of our travels, it healed us our ails, and it relieved us of our sins, past, present and future. That’s how good the deep dish pizza is. I’m only hardly exaggerating.

Pizza.

Love.

The process seems to start with a thick, flaky crust upon which is placed a cheese so wonderful that it does not bear resemblance to other petty cheeses found on pizza in your home town, nor those available at your local grocery. Embedded gently in the cheese is a succulent variety of “toppings” (though they do not “top” the pizza in this case), which are, of course, yours to choose. Upon this is placed another thinner layer of flaky, buttery crust which will itself be fully covered in the most delicate pizza sauce your lips have ever tasted. Some 40 minutes after ordering, an angel will fly down to your table and deliver a heavenly, steaming, overflowing, 20 pounds of food that will satiate you in three bites though you will continue to gorge yourself past that point until your belly bulges in fabulously contented defeat.

And this is the glory that is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.

I highly recommend trying it… even if you have to fly for 4 hours to get it*.

Commandment.

Pizza commandment.

*Additionally, if you’re feeling like a true American and want all the delicacies of the world brought soundly to your doorstep, Giordano’s actually offers the ability to order a pizza and have it shipped to your home. At which point you cook the pie and enjoy everything Chicago has to offer in the comfort of your own kitchen, for only about twice the price you’d pay in-store. We have yet to try this, but I think we may have to give it a go, if only to discover how ridiculous we can be. Anybody want to come over for a pizza party?





Lanesplitter

12 06 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure
___________

LanesplitterThis pizza place and pub on San Pablo in Berkeley is a cute spot for a good slice of authentic New York pizza (or so they tell me) and a fancy glass of beer. It’s neat because you can actually order just a slice of pizza for yourself, and it doesn’t have to be one of the ones sitting out already made. You can order any slice you want and they’ll make it fresh!

They have a few combos (which don’t seem to be listed on their relatively limited website), one of which is a salad and slice combo. One slice of one topping pizza and a side salad was around $8 and was pretty good. You have to like NY Style pizza, which I have mixed feelings about*, but I think it was good for what it was.

Lanesplitter interior

Lanesplitter Pizza, Berkeley from the front door

The salad was pretty standard, but they do offer home-made dressing which gets bonus points. I’m not actually sure why every restaurant doesn’t do this; it seems so easy and is so much better than pre-made dressings. I digress. I had a slice of their “herbivore” pizza: mushrooms, spinach, olives, and onions. It was pretty good but didn’t really have a “wow” factor. I’d have it again though.  And with the salad, I didn’t feel all “ugh” afterward which can happen with some pizza meals.

Omnivore pizza and salad

Omnivore pizza and salad from Lanesplitter in Berkeley

Friend #1 had Gorgonzola on her pizza and I found myself having major pizza envy.  Friend #2 had one slice of a meaty pizza and one slice of a cheesy pizza–both of which looked pretty good.  We also ordered the breadsticks which I thought were sub-par save the excellent blue cheese dressing they came with to dip in.  My friends thoroughly enjoy the wide selection and relatively cheap price of the beer there, so that’s a draw for lots of folks as well, though it’s not something I’m particularly interested in.

Gorgonzola pizza and salad

Gorgonzola pizza and salad from Lanesplitter in Berkeley

Pizza slices

Meaty and cheesy pizza slices at Lanesplitter

Break sticks

Bread sticks were just ok...blue cheese was good though...

Additionally, the restaurant features art from local artists on the long walls of the main space.  The bartender lady who apparently is also part-owner or something asked me if I have a photography exhibit I’d like to display after she saw me taking pictures.  Actually, she asked me if I was a photographer, to which I was reluctant to answer affirmatively…I was thinking, “sure, if you don’t need any good photos”.  Regardless, she was nice and took my and my friend’s email address (he actually is an artist) and said they’d be looking for new exhibits for next year starting in the fall.  Neat!

Beer and Art

Beer on the bar at Lanesplitter with the current art exhibit on the wall behind.

Overall, I thought Lanesplitter was pretty average, but I liked the atmosphere, the food was pretty good, the bartender was nice, and the company was good.  I would return with no hesitation.

bumper sticker

Sticker on their bar cabinet says it all

*NY pizza seems to be the thin kind that isn’t piled extremely densely with toppings. While I do like thin crust, I do like way too much cheese, as discussed previously on many occasions. So, while I like NY style pizza, I often wish they had covered it more thoroughly with the toppings of my choice.

Lanesplitter Pizza and Pub on Urbanspoon








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